The magic that works : John W. Campbell and the American response to technology
Berger, Albert I. (Albert Isaac), 1947-
MetadataShow full item record
This essay is an attempt to understand the popular response to twentieth century technological change by studying the career of John Campbell, an influential writer and editor of science fiction. Educated as a scientist and specifically concerned with the problem of technological change, Campbell articulated his views through monthly editorials in Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog Science Fiction, Science Fact) from 1937 until his recent death. These editorials were the primary sources for the study, although a variety of stories printed by Campbell and certain statistical surveys of the readership were also examined and cited. My inquiry proves that contrary to widely-held beliefs, science fiction is not a completely optimistic literature, nor do science fiction writers welcome technological change as eagerly as was supposed. Rather, science fiction demonstrates the same ambivalence towards technology Leo Marx's Machine in the Garden discovered in a good deal of nineteenth century literature culture. However, Campbell recognized the fundamental conflict between a pastoral paradise he wished to preserve and the inevitable technological change he knew could destroy it. In his attempt to reconcile the contradictions in his thinking—and to defend a political order he saw as under attack, Campbell eulogized a godlike manipulator or social engineer." This engineer would control the dangerous forces at man's command. As a corollary to this, I conclude that Campbell's final political position, derived from his technological speculations was authoritarian; social control being necessary for social engineering to succeed.